I recently delivered a Chapel talk and chose the topic of community. The theme continues to resonate. This past Sunday, the Luther Community awoke to the reality that there are those among us whose goal it is to instill fear, anxiety and paralysis in the lives of those who seek to learn, study and teach here; to diminish our dreams and our voices.
As the day wore on, many students, though exhausted, some feeling unsafe and upset, ventured to share, and not for the first time, their experience of Luther College and the surrounding Decorah community. Those of us who listened heard stories of deep pain and fear coupled with an amazing and unacknowledged yet strong resilience to "keep on keepin' on" in the face of daily microagressions as well as acts of overt aggression.
How will the Luther community respond to the blatant and unmistakable acts of hate incidents such as were demonstrated? Who is responsible to respond?
In a book titled, "Community, The Structure of Belonging," author Peter Block writes that he wrote his book in "support of those who care for the well-being of their community." Block is interested in creating among other things, organizations and communities that work for all as well as "for those who have the faith and energy to create such a place." The faith and the energy.
According to Block, creating a community that works for all means a vision of the community of the whole, a community that "seeks to bring the gifts of those on the margins, into the center." He suggests that this is how a community of citizens is created. Block defines a citizen as one who is willing to be accountable for and committed to the well-being of the whole. A citizen is one who creates the future rather than dreaming of it or waiting for it to emerge. Citizenship is activist in its caring for community. Among other things, community grows out of the collective possibility of citizens. Block proposes that community is built not by specialized expertise, or great leadership, or even improved services; it is built by great citizens.
Recently, I have been wondering whether Luther College is as welcoming a place as it can be. Is Luther College a community that works for all? Does it intentionally seek to bring the gifts of those on the margins (meant broadly) to center? Is it a community of the whole? If the answer is yes, then great. We can keep doing what we are doing. If not, why not? Does the community and its citizens possess the faith and energy to create such a place? These questions would make for great community dialogue and can serve as a foundation for action. I do know that there are those among us here at Luther who, every day, show up and intentionally seek to create, nurture and care for a community of the whole. To those folks, I would like to take this opportunity to say, "Thank you."